Jurisdiction in Space Is a Hard Problem

The Federal Aviation Administration has just granted permission (pdf) to Moon Express to send its first lander to the Lunar in 2018. It’s a big move: the first time a privately owned company has established concrete plans to send a commercial mission beyond Earth’s immediate vicinity, and it will most likely be the first attempt to commercially […]

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Space Colonies Are Cool. And Economically Impossible.

At the Re:Code conference this week, Amazon CEO and rocketship manufacturer Jeff Bezos made some bold claims about going into space. “We will settle Mars,” he told the audience. “And we should, because it’s cool.” Mars colonies are cool if you don’t think about them very much. But colonization never happens simply because it is […]

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What Do “Values” Even Mean to an Artificial Intelligence?

Over at Future Tense, Adam Elkus poses a very interesting question I’ve covered here before: Which brings us back to Russell’s optimistic assumptions that computer scientists can sidestep these social questions through superior algorithms and engineering efforts. Russell is an engineer, not a humanities scholar. When he talks about “tradeoffs” and “value functions,” he assumes […]

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Vaporware to the Stars

A Russian billionaire has decided to send a bunch of iPhones to Alpha Centauri. If it all worked out — a cosmically big “if” that would occur decades and perhaps $10 billion from now — a rocket would deliver a “mother ship” carrying a thousand or so small probes to space. Once in orbit, the […]

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Why Would You Want to Live in an Orbital Habitat?

This post is part of an on-going series. See the other posts here. There is a great post over at SF Signal by author Rob Boffard, about the feasibility of constructing a large-scale permanent habitat in orbit over Earth. It’s a neat thought experiment: Getting stuff into space, and keeping it there, is hideously expensive. Even something […]

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Can A Democratic Government Exist on Mars?

This post is part of an on-going series. See the other posts here. The British Interplanetary Society sat down last year in a dingy room in London and decided the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights were the best documents to guide the governance of a colony on Mars. Conference delegates decide that having […]

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The Scary Political Logic of Colonizing Mars

Nuclear Terraforming? In all the fervor about water on Mars and building colonies there, I have been digging through the literature about living on Mars, from non-fiction accounts of the engineering required, to speculation about how such places might work, to science fiction about what those colonies could become. And I’m left with a conclusion […]

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Who Picks Up the Trash on Mars?

Public interest in and excitement about space colonization seems to be peaking: first with all the latest hype about space travel, and last week with the discovery of liquid water on Mars. But as exciting as this news is, there are much bigger issues to deal with when we think about what it would require […]

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A Red Mars Revival

Let us celebrate with amazement the discovery of liquid water — of a sort — on Mars! This is a dream come true for so many who want to build a colony on the Red Planet. And indeed, the idea of water — even water with so much perchlorate in it that it becomes antifreeze […]

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